TweetMemeFace+: When the Void Tweets Back
Today I was reading a piece on Thought Catalog about social media. Most of it was twenty-something melancholy, as that’s Thought Catalog’s bread and butter, but one part of the article really stood out for me.
When you aren’t able to meaningfully elect or control the audience to whom you’re speaking, you’re forced to neutralize your self-expression until it’s so tepid it’s no longer you, just to ensure you are appropriately tailored toward all of the individuals to whom you may or may not be speaking. And if you don’t, you risk being subject to instantaneous reactionary censure.
Now, I realize that I am unusual in that my dad follows me on Twitter and my grandmother on Facebook, but I am fairly certain that I am not the only college student worried about social media push back. It is, I think, one of the only ways to explain why so many of my peers have privacy-protected Twitter streams. As a generation of college students, we lived through both the creation of social media and its inevitable turn into something else for admissions officers to use.
There is certainly a reason to watch what you say on the internet to some degree–being a racist or sexist asshole on Twitter is generally a good indicator that you are a racist or sexist asshole in real life, and that’s never a good image to project (or a good thing to be). But we as a group of students are also–if my parents’ stories about college are any indication–pushing towards grad school or government jobs or consulting gigs like no generation before us has.
We are constantly looking forward, and constantly trying to be impressive for the next admissions committee. As a result, we guard our digital tongues to the point that our personalities get completely buried under whatever version of ourselves we want to project for the people who control what we’ll be doing with our futures. The less certain we are about what we’ll be doing in the future, the more we clam up–volunteering at a women’s health clinic might be great for a Gender Studies major, but maybe not so much for an accountant. As a high school student or an early-on undergrad, you may not know which of those you’ll be.
So much of what we write about on the site is about how to distinguish yourself from a sea of your fellow students by working smarter, doing cool things, and making college the best that it can possibly be. But I’m beginning to wonder if longer school terms combined with fear of public censure is making it so that social media is not an easily-integrated part of that for most students, particularly if it’s public.
So, commenters–what do you think?